Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Model Work Ethic

A Model Work Ethic

The US base at McMurdo is the largest research facility in Antarctica, and even though it is large enough that a slacker could hide out, collectively, the folks at McMurdo display a fabulous work ethic. Officially, everybody from linemen to the cooks to the administrative assistants agrees to a long work week—7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., six days a week. Many folks though voluntarily work longer than this, and in the science lab complex where my office is, plenty of people are still busy when I knock off at 11 at night. I wonder if some of the grad students ever go to bed.

I made a survey before lunch of some of the things going on at the base. This helicopter is on its way to a field camp to deliver supplies. Maybe it’s on its way to Lake Hoare, a field site in what are called the Dry Valleys and a place I hope to visit in two days. The Dry Valleys replicate the terrain of Mars and due to wind and other factors, are mostly snow free. They are an immense natural outdoor laboratory.

I don’t know where these guys are going but this sure is the truck to have when chains are required on the road up to Mountain High. All they need are some snowboards.

The cargo handlers have to process everything from sacks of potatoes to laser beam generators that cost tens of millions of dollars. Amazingly, everything ends up in the right place, almost always in perfect shape. Behind me out of sight is the freezer where they store the ice cores—kept locked up, so the samples will not be contaminated. Some of that ice might be a million years old.

Safety is on everybody’s mind, so these roofers are belayed by safety lines. If you’re thinking about applying, you may not appreciate the long hours but the view is pretty good. On the sea ice behind them are the breathing holes for Weddell Seals.

Another safety feature are survival kits—the gear one would need if caught out in a blizzard in sub-zero temperatures. On this vehicle it’s strapped on the roof and includes sleeping bags, a tent, medical supplies, and a fully fueled mountaineering stove. There is about $3000 worth of gear in that red bag, but if you’re the one broken down on a glacier, you’ll be darn glad somebody made the trip to Sport Chalet and got all this stuff.

Well, we can’t all be firemen. This is my office inside the Crary Lab. I have access to a Compaq brand PC but find it’s faster to use my MacBook Pro. Note the AVC home page!

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